Haim Steinbach at The Serpentine

I made the rash decision, whist writing my essay the other week, to book a trip to London! I decided to go and see an artist’s work I was talking about in great depth; Haim Steinbach. Upon further research I found out he had a show on at the Serpentine Gallery, it was too good of an opportunity to miss. So this Sunday I went to see Steinbach’s incredible show. Although it may have been a little too close to my deadline it was undoubtedly a great decision. Maybe even more so at this time, it felt really good to assure myself that this is what I’m really excited about. Haim Steinbach really hit the nail on the head with everything he was saying and it related so well to my practice. For example the first sentence of  his exhibition catalogue read: “Haim Steinbach’s work is defined by his continued investigation into what constitutes art objects and the ways in which they are displayed. Through the collecting and arranging of objects, he taps into a fundamental human practice that is almost ritualised in its universality.”

It was Steinbach’s use of display that really excited me! In my essay I wrote; “it’s been said that Steinbach turned the notion of display on its head”- and he certainly did that. His almost quirky and playful methods of display not only redefined the way in which an art object can be displayed, it became an integral part of the piece- the object and display worked side by side, complimenting one another. Much like in my own work; I hope the wallpapered plinth and the transformed figurine work together as one. The wallpaper I use includes the object, it brings in the narrative of the object and confirms the home and the domestic. This idea is again spoke of in the exhibition guide: “Steinbach often positions his objects within larger architectural installations, which resemble domestic interiors. Several of these historical installations have been reconceived within the exhibition, where sheets of wallpaper sit on studded walls. These walls also guide the viewers’ navigation through the galleries and highlight the architectural qualities of the space.”

What seemed a really crucial piece for both me and indeed the exhibition as a whole, was a new work created specially for this show. In this work Steinbach invited members of the public to lend their salt and pepper shakers to be displayed within his installation. I enjoyed that Steinbach acknowledged that these objects have a story, a place in time- “By transporting objects that hold their own stories into the gallery, Steinbach’s participatory gesture reactivates them within this new context and makes the connection between the private and the public sphere.” The objects I use within my own practice I believe possess an even more telling story than these salt and pepper shakers; they encourage the viewer to search out their secrets an uncover their own narratives.

There is so much more I could say about this exhibition but I will stop here for now, ending with this extract, again from the guide,it perfectly sums up the notions I’m portraying within my practice: “Through juxtaposing these painting, sculptures, artefacts and children’s playthings, Steinbach uncovers alternative meanings inherent in the objects, while subverting traditional notions of display and the value of objects. In presenting these loan salt and pepper shakers, Steinbach also unites the day-to-day habits of the home with the seemingly more conventional museum-based act of collection and display.”

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